Providing practical knowledge for market gardening in the Southern United States.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Lessons From Spring

Thus far, this spring has been extremely cold and wet. This uncomfortable environment has been difficult for growing but also beneficial for making me a better gardener.  What follows is a list of the lessons I have learned:

1. Gardens look bad when it is consistently cold and wet. Mud seems to abound while the plants struggle to compete with the hostile conditions. Also, opportunities to work in the garden for extended periods of time are rare. The scenario is quite frustrating. Do not fret though; drier, warmer weather is sure to eventually arrive.

2. Slugs are voracious eaters. They especially love chowing on my collard transplants. Thankfully, I planted A LOT of collards. I think I will have plenty to bring to market.

3. I can grow beets! Yes, I am gaining confidence in my ability to grow beets, My process is to soak the seeds for 24 hours, sow at least three seeds in each cell of the seed starter kit, and then transplant the beets when they are well established. Also, it helps to water them frequently after transplanting.

4. Collards perform better if directly sowed. I have had to baby my collards so far this season. I believe based on my experiences that collards are healthier and more vigorous if directly sown instead of transplanted.


Friday, March 16, 2018

My Chicken Routine

For the sake of efficiency, I follow a fairly strict routine each week when caring for the chickens. I make adjustments to my routine as needed. However, it remains extremely consistent compared to other farms tasks. My routine is structured as follows:

Daily

AM- feed 1/4 lb of feed to eat chicken, fill each waterer and place them in the coops, count chickens while feeding and watering them to ensure they are not missing or ill

PM- Feed the chickens a small amount of grains or produce (can be completely eaten in no more than 5 minutes), remove waterers from coops which are empty and clean remaining waterers, place empty waterers in a central location, remove eggs from nesting boxes, reexamine chickens

Weekly

Sun, Thurs- Clean chicken coops in late afternoon

Sun- Mix water in waterers with thyme, garlic, cayenne pepper, and apple cider vinegar, let rest over night

Other

Quarterly- Feed chickens pumpkin seeds as additional precaution against worms

As needed- Purchase feed, bedding, and other supples

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Priming Beet Seeds

This past weekend, I started beets, sweet potatoes, and garlic. Yesterday, I started collards. Of all of those plants, I have the most trouble with beets. Each time I have attempted to grow them, they suffer from poor germination.

The first time I attempted to grow them, germination was abysmal. Germination for my second attempt was bad but not abysmal, and I was able to harvest some beets. During my fourth attempt, I started beets in early fall in a 72-cell seed tray and then transplanted them in the field. Germination was moderately successful, but the beets succumbed to the fall heat which is common in Georgia during October and sometimes in early November.

For this spring, I primed my beet seeds before seeding them in cell trays. Priming means that I soaked the beet seeds for 24 hours prior to seeding them. The water encourages the seeds to germinate quicker. My goal is to grow about 150 beets. I did not dedicate a large soil block to their cultivation due to my past difficulties. If growing them goes well this spring, then I will reassess how many I grow in the future.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Where to Buy Seeds

My strategy for purchasing seeds is relatively simple. I differentiate the seeds I need in bulk from the seeds that I only need in small amounts. I then create a plan. I typically purchase bulk seeds from local seed and feed stores such as Elrod, Barnes Store, Marietta Seed and Feed, and Turner's Feed and Seed. For the smaller orders, I usually go to Home Depot.

What seeds do I buy in bulk? Most often the seeds I need in bulk are the ones which I direct seed such as radish, turnips, and mustards. These seeds are planted in tight rows, which makes other forms of seeding impractical. Also, I use an EarthWay Seeder, which performs best if a large quantity of seeds are placed in the hopper. Those seeds are cheaper at local feed and seed stores because the employees scoop the seeds directly from large seed sacks into brown paper sacks upon request from the customer. The customer can purchase pounds of those seeds if needed. This procedure eliminates the cost of fancy seed packaging.

Conversely, I always transplant certain plants such as tomatoes and peppers. Therefore, I need less of those seeds. Small packets of the seeds produce amazing amounts of plants if the seeds are distributed carefully in the seed trays when starting the seeds. Also, many of the small order seeds are of the indeterminate variety and produce a harvest for much of the growing season.

Do not forget context when mapping out a strategy for buying seeds. In Georgia, or at least the west central portion of the state, seeds are very cheap and accessible. I have yet to find it useful to browse a catalog to purchase seeds at inflated prices. Furthermore, climate and geography dictates planting methods. My area of Georgia has hot, humid summers and clay soils. I do not transplant all of my plants as recommended by other market gardeners due to the weather. I also can not direct seed certain plants due to the clay soil.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Starting Plants Inside

My plan this weekend is to start two plants indoors. The first is sweet potatoes. The slips, or small cuttings of the plant which grow directly from the sweet potatoes if exposed to water and sun, can be grown on a south facing window sill. I have had success with cutting a bag of sweet potatoes bought at the store in half and placing the cut sides in shallow pans of water. The pans are placed on a window sill and exposed to full sun. The slips grow fairly rapidly from the cuttings and are removed from the cuttings and placed in a jar of water once they are large enough. I do not plant them until it is warm enough outside and the roots of the slips are robust.

 
Slips

This method is reliable and cheap, but it is not the only method. People who grow lots of sweet potatoes often prefer to start them in shallow beds in the ground. There are quite a few YouTube videos which explain this process in detail. I grow my sweet potatoes mostly for home use. They are not an ideal product to sell at the farmers market. They take up a good bit space in the garden and have a lengthy date to maturity. However, they tolerate poor soils and can sooth a green thumb in late winter.

The second plant which I intend to start indoors this weekend is garlic. I have never grown garlic, but similar to sweet potatoes, I am looking to sooth my green thumb while also growing some for personal use. It is best to start garlic in the fall. However, it can be started in late winter for a smaller harvest. Garlic, unlike sweet potatoes, has some potential as a product for the farmers market. It can be grown effectively in dense spaces. Garlic does have a long date to maturity.